My second post about the exhibition ‘Sits – katoen in bloei’ (Chintz – cotton in bloom) in the Fries Museum! My first post was about color and patterns, and before that I wrote this post, which has more terminology and history about the fabric.
In this post I’ll try to go into the specific chintz garments which were on display. What garments were made of chintz; how where they worn and in what context.
Also: all my pictures of the exhibition are now online on my pinterest board and facebook page, so to see everything you can go there! I took too many images for even two blog posts. For this post; click on the image for the full view.
Chintz on chintz
Most jackets and skirt combinations in the exhibition were made of 2 different chintz fabrics. A while back I posted a promotion image for the exhibition on Facebook with such a combination, and it sparked a question from some people. Were (chintz) print-on-print combinations really a thing?
Now I know that Dutch 18th century clothing, especially middle class (/small town/countryside), was quite colorful. There are a number of prints which show combinations of chintz with striped skirts, and ton-sur-ton skirts like this, this or this (same-color pattern & ground), and checkered or patterned aprons, checkered kerchiefs or with chintz sunhats. So different prints together is definitely seen. However, I couldn’t find any clear examples paintings showing a chintz skirt combined with a chintz jacket. This print might be. But then again, either jacket or skirt might also be silk, or a simpler European cotton or linen print, it’s difficult to see. The only example I could find which clearly shows chintz on chintz is a doll. But given that the petticoat and skirt were often inter-changeable in the 18th century depending on the fancy of the wearer, this might be an example of skirts being mixed up. All in all, I wouldn’t take that as enough evidence that it was commonly done.
So, in the end, I decided to ask the fashion curator of the Fries museum, and of this exhibition. She gave a presentation about the exhibition at the meeting of the Dutch costume society, and I approached her afterwards. Her answer: it was probably not common to wear a chintz skirt with a different chintz jacket. Mostly, chintz jackets would’ve been worn on top of the same chintz fabric skirt, or on top of a silk or wool skirt. Many chintz skirts would’ve been worn as underskirt (which you could still see when lifting the skirts a bit), however, she had also seen chintz skirt which were clearly meant as top skirt. In this case, if not worn with a same-chintz jacket, they would’ve probably been worn with a solid color jacket. This is not saying that you’d absolutely never would see a chintz jacket on a chintz petticoat, but it probably wasn’t the common way of wearing it. Similarly, the ‘onderst’ worn to fill in the neckline (see a section below for more info) was often made of chintz. With a chintz jacket, however, a solid (white) onderst was most likely worn, the chintz ondersts being worn with solid color jackets.
In the case of this exhibition, she choose to display the chintz skirts and jackets together, as this was an exhibition specifically about chintz, and those are the items you want on display. Something I completely understand, as there’s only so much space, and you want to show as much as possible without cluttering. The only exception was this lovely combination of a chintz jacket with a corded quilted silk petticoat.
The apron in the image above is interesting. It is made of what we’d call ‘oost-indisch bont’ in Dutch, which would roughly translate to ‘east-indian motley’. It is a cotton fabric originally from India, and just as chintz, it was taken to the Netherlands by the east-indian trading company (hence the name). It was used mostly for aprons and kerchiefs, and just like chintz, it stuck around in many traditional costumes in the Netherlands. It’s funny how I’d now consider it a very typically Dutch fabric, while it actually came from Asia.
I mentioned the ‘onderst’ before. This was the name given in Friesland, in most of the Netherlands we’d call this a ‘kraplap’, or ‘kroplap’, in Zeeland they’d say ‘beuk’, and I’ve heard ‘halsje’ in Noord-Holland. It’s an interesting garment because it doesn’t seem to have an international equivalent, at least in the 18th century. It’s very like a partlet, or a chemisette. But the term ‘partlet’ I’ve only ever heard for the 16th and early 17th century, and chemisette is a typically 19th century term. I believe that the 16th century partlet stuck around in the Netherlands well into the 17th, and eventually the 18th century. The image below shows a girl in ‘undress'(full dress would have a jacket on top) clearly wearing a partlet, this painting is from ca. 1665, so quite ‘late’ for a partlet.
It’s very difficult to still find images of the 18th century equivalent though, which might have several reasons. There’s not as many paintings of lower classes in the Netherlands in this century, and this item was most likely worn primarily in the countryside and smaller towns. Another reason is that it was generally covered by one or even two kerchiefs, which make it nearly invisible in the paintings and prints which do exist. However, we know for sure that they were worn, because there are many existent examples, and they show up in doll’s clothes and inventory lists frequently. The 18th century onderst was typically made with a front and back rectangle, sewn together at the shoulder seams and a ‘hole’ for the head (I’ve never seen any with a slit in front). It was attached by putting tapes from the front through loops in the back. Many would’ve been white, with or without lace (see the pictures of jackets at the beginning of this post), but there are also many chintz examples. They had a whole wall filled with them at the exhibition. Click for the full-size version and to read the text below.
There was also a display of a number of different sunhats on display. These hats are made of straw, but have a chintz lining which extends around to the top to form a border (I think +- 10cm wide? Couldn’t see the top on these). They’re made of the most beautiful fabrics.
These sunhats are a little different in shape than the better known round straw bergere hats. These ones might even be larger (although I haven’t seen a bergere in person, so estimating based on portraits), but the main difference is that the hole head is at the back. This creates a large shape only in front of the head. This shape has everything to do with the lace head dresses popular in Friesland in the 18th century. The lace caps started modest, but as fashion does, changed to rather extreme proportions. These caps are called a ‘Duitse muts’ nowadays, and they had one gorgeous example on display. This was my first time seeing one in person!
The cap is worn on top of an under cap and an oorijzer, which would’ve helped keeping the cap in place on the head. The front is kept up by a wire running through the lace around the edge. The exhibition also had a little booklet showing a woman wearing both a cap like this and a chintz sunhat. The only thing which isn’t depicted correctly are the ribbons hanging loose. In real life, you have to hold on to those ribbons continuously because otherwise the hat would fall forwards. Although the wire in the cap is strong enough to keep up the lace, it wouldn’t be able to support the full straw hat!
The exhibition also had a large number of items from Hindeloopen, a town which nowadays is known for the chintz in it’s traditional costume. Although not worn daily since the 19th century, the town still keeps the costume alive. The chintz parts are the jackets, which is either long, called ‘wentke’, or short, called ‘kassakijntje (from cassaquin I believe).
The kassakijntjes were a little harder to photograph as they were further away on a wall, but here are three lovely examples. The construction seems the same as for the wentke, just shorter.
To finish off, another wentke, this time for out of mourning. It should be noted that this costume contains many other bits and pieces to form a full outfit. These items would never be worn with ‘regular’ 18th century fashion.
Chintz in the 19th century
Chintz as fabric for clothing is very much an 18th century thing. However, it keeps very well, and as fabric was expensive, re-use was extremely common. Especially for the middle and lower classes, this meant that just because something was a bit old fashioned, didn’t mean it wouldn’t be worn anymore. We therefore also see jackets with a high waistline, worn in the early 19th century, in reused chintz.
This jacket below belonged to a lady on her marriage, and accounts show she had two other identically cut jackets. The other two were of fine muslin, this one is remade from a chintz skirt. This probably would’ve been more of a working jacket as the fabric was more old fashioned. But also more practical than the fine, thin cottons so popular at the time.
Another great example of re-use is the early 19th century girl’s jacket below. It is made of 76 different pieces of chintz fabric. Talk about piecing!
The two ensembles I started off this post with both had gorgeous chintz jackets. Because both are a bit unusual I wanted to show them in more detail.
The green jacket has a very interesting front closure of zig-zags, leaving little dimond cut-outs to show off the stomacher underneath. The zig-zags close with hooks and eyes center front.
I’d seen the green jacket in pictures before I went tot he exhibition, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing. It was stunning in person, but I think my favorite jacket was actually the other one I showed before, this red one. The color is so stunning in person. We know that this jacket was worn in the province of Noord-Holland.
This jacket is a bit unusual in several ways. Firstly, it laces in the front instead of closing with hooks and eyes. Practically all fancy jackets in this museum close with hooks and eyes. Front-lacing jackets exist, but these were all worn as under-jackets or for very informal occasions. This red jacket, however, is too fancy for that, it was almost certainly worn as a top jacket.
The other unusual thing is the neckline, 18th century necklines are generally square, this one is almost v-shaped. Additionally, it has a collar-like shape around the neckline. I’d never seen this before, and I commented on this during my talk to the curator of the exhibition. She confirmed it was unusual, but also referred to a portrait of a girl in a blue chintz jacket which also shows a collar like shape. I’d seen this portrait before but hadn’t noticed the collar, but it’s definitely there! It’s pointed instead of round, but it also shows a neckline in a (shallower) v. I’m taking this to mean that these type of collars weren’t unheard of, and I personally think the style is very pretty. If anyone’s ever seen any other examples of this style I’d love to see!
A final thing I noticed about this jacket are little white thread loops on the collar. The curator didn’t know for sure what these were for either. One possible explanation might be to tie a kerchief of fichu in place? As before, if anyone has any idea of their purpose I’d love to know!